Chapter 7 : Faint and Faith
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“How did you do that?” I asked in amazement, gazing after the paper planes.
“My dad taught me. It’s the system they used in our Ministry of Magic,” Charlie smiled, placing Freckle in my arms once again. “Here, put him in the cauldron over there until you see a crack on his shell.” I hastened over to the fireplace and did as I was told while Charlie raided a wooden cupboard near the door, loading his arms with towels, a bucket, a bottle filled with what looked like blood, and another of brandy. He poured the content of the bottles into the bucket and handed one of the towels to me. “So you don’t burn your hands by holding the hot egg,” he said, pulling a chair to sit beside me.
“Thank you,” I said, taking the towel. “What is this place, anyway?”
“This is the Emergency Infirmary. Sometimes when something like this happens, we don’t have enough time to reach the Infirmary, so the school set up this room. Freshmen are directed to this room when their eggs are ready to hatch, and if anything goes wrong, you can always Flooed Margareth,” he explained, gesturing to the fireplace. “Didn’t Professor DeMonte explain any of this to your class?”
I grinned sheepishly. “He might have, but I’ve been, um, having a difficult time staying awake in his class lately.”
Charlie grinned back. “Watching the egg is just the beginning, you know. You’ll have less sleep now once it’s hatched.”
“Thanks for reminding me,” I groaned, propping up my head with my hands. My eyes were fixed on Freckle as I tried to picture my days as with the dragon. I had never been this close to a baby dragon before. I never wanted to and Dad wouldn’t let me, for fear I might scare it and ruin the taming program. It didn’t stop him from lecturing me about them though. What did he used to say about them?
“Young dragons are less dangerous than an adult one, obviously, but that doesn’t mean they are easier to handle. Some, like a Hungarian Horntail, are quite daring and they’re not afraid to take a bite out of you. Some are more cautious, but they would attack when they’re scared or provoked. Not so different than any other animals, aren’t they?”
He had said more, but I couldn’t remember. Now I wish I had paid closer attention to him, perhaps it would’ve prepared me for this. Once again, a wave of worry washed over me. What if I couldn’t handle Freckle? The girls would be there to help me, of course, but they expected me to take the lead. It didn’t help that I was doing well in my classes, except for PE, so they automatically assumed that I knew everything when it came to dragons, no matter how many times I told them that they were far better than I was. They simply chuckled and called me modest. I wanted to explain the truth to them, but I couldn’t. I was scared that they would treat me differently once they found out how I was nothing like my father.
A loud crack jerked me out of my thoughts and both Charlie and I jumped to our feet. A rift was forming on Freckle’s shell, starting from the top of the egg, as it bobbed up and down inside the cauldron. Despite the fire, my hands were cold as I lifted it out of the cauldron. Following Charlie’s instruction, I carefully placed the egg on the towels that were arranged on the table. I was about to step back when Charlie placed his hand on my arm, causing me to stop immediately. A pleasant shiver ran up my spine, but it was overcome by my nervousness as the egg continued to crack.
“You have to stay in sight,” Charlie said, his voice barely above a whisper. He was watching the hatching process intently, his wand gripped tightly in his hand. “Once he has completely hatched, he’ll have to see someone he recognized or he’ll go wild.” I nodded, my eyes never leaving the egg. I didn’t look away even when I heard the door burst open and the hasty footsteps of my friends approaching. I was fascinated.
The crack grew larger, encircling the egg as it went, causing pieces of it to fall slowly apart. A small, skeletal wing poked out of one side, followed closely by the other wing. Something emerged from the top of the egg, and it took me awhile to register that the thing was none other than the dragon’s head. He didn’t look as majestic as the pictures of dragons in the books, but he looked quite intimidating. His hide was the same colour of his egg, a mixture of silver and blue. I could see two small fangs hanging out from his mouth, and even then his jaw looked strong enough to chew off my finger. His eyes were quite large, and when the last piece of the egg fell away, he started to fix his gaze on each of us with a curious expression.
Charlie indicated for me and the girls to step closer, and Freckle continued to stare, as if judging us. I tried not to appear too nervous, but as his eyes fell on me, I had to grab Allison’s wrist to keep my balance. Please, please, don’t let me pass out, I silently prayed. I forced away the memory that was playing on the back on my mind and held Freckle’s gaze. Suddenly he stepped clumsily forward, testing his legs for the first time, his head tilted to one side as he examined me more closely.
“What’s going on?” I whispered.
“He thinks you’re his mother,” Allison whispered back.
Without warning, a high-pitched scream erupted from the table. The next thing I knew, Freckle jumped onto me. Then everything went black.
A searing pain shot up my right arm. Screaming at the top of my lung, I vainly tried to shake it off. Somebody came running and he shouted something I didn’t understand. The creature that was hanging onto my arm fell off and I dropped to the floor, my knees too weak to support my weight. Somebody picked me up, and through the tears I could see my mother’s face.
“Sshh…It’s alright. Mum and Dad are here, sweetheart. Don’t cry, it’s okay,” she whispered, her voice shaking slightly.
“What…what was that?” I sobbed. I could still see the teeth flashing in front of my eyes, and I felt like the scream that had pierced my ears would echo in my head forever.
“It’s a dragon. A young one, but quite dangerous,” my dad answered. “Hold still, dear.” I felt something cold stung my skin and I tried to jerk away, but Dad held me firmly until he was finished dabbing on the bleeding wound. The pain subsided, but the fear did not. It never would.
The ceiling was slowly coming into focus as I opened my eyes and I realized that I was lying on my bed. How did I get here?
“Thank God, you’re awake!” I turned my head around and saw Lisa sitting on a chair next to my bed, beaming. She threw aside the book she was reading and leaned closer to me, wearing a concerned expression on her face. “Are you feeling okay? You scared the life out of me back there.”
“What happened to me, exactly?” I asked, rubbing my temple absentmindedly. “All I knew is that Freckle suddenly jumped on me and I fainted. Why did he attack me?”
“Apparently your sudden yell frightened him, so he acted on impulse and attack. It was a good thing Charlie was there. He cast a Shield Charm around you so Freckle couldn’t get to you and he calmed Freckle down. After Freckle was calm, he carried you here.” Lisa paused, observing me carefully, before she asked again. “Why did you faint, anyway?”
Pushing the image of Charlie carrying me across the campus in his arms out of my mind, I answered her. “It was just a nasty shock, I guess.” I hesitated. A part of me wanted to tell her about that awful experience, but my head was still throbbing and I just didn’t feel like explaining.
Lisa seemed to believe me, but she wasn’t done interrogating me. “Oh. What were you doing with Charlie, anyway?” Her bright sapphire eyes looked somewhat accusing as she gazed straight into my eyes, and I found myself calculating my answer, even though I didn’t think I had done something wrong.
“We met at the library. Freckle started hatching when we were talking and he helped me,” I said.
Lisa didn’t look completely satisfied and her tone was sharper when she spoke again. “You can’t do this to my brother, you know. You agreed to go out with him, so you’ve got to stop flirting around with Charlie.”
“I’m not flirting with anyone!” I protested. “And all I agreed to was one date, remember? I didn’t agree to be his girlfriend.” Sighing, I leaned back on my pillow, trying to put my thoughts into words. “I promise you I’m not going to play with anyone’s feelings. Just wait until the date, and then I’ll decide what to do.”
Lisa nodded, her expression softening somewhat. “Okay then, I’ll take your word on that. For now, you just stay here and rest. The girls and I will take care of Freckle for now. We’ll be right next door.” She was about to exit the room when she stopped and turned around. “Oh yeah, almost forgot. Charlie said that even though Freckle attacked you, he still thinks you’re the mother, so you’ll be the one with the strongest bond with him.”
“Oh. Good,” I managed to say. As soon as Lisa exited, I sighed out loud and lie flat on my back. Things seemed to get more and more complicated for me, and I still couldn’t see my way out of it.
Rubbing my eyes tiredly, I began thinking of that memory. Even though it often haunted my sleep, I avoided thinking about it as often as I could. I remembered how scared my parents looked and the whispered arguments they had when they thought I was asleep. Dad never tried to take me to his workplace when Mum was alive, but two years afterward he began to take me along. But no matter how he tried, I never got over the trauma, and judging by the way I fainted earlier, I still hadn’t.
Suddenly I longed to talk to him. No matter how angry I was with him for putting me in this position, he was the only one who would understand and could give some kind of solution to it. Who knows, he might be able to give some advice on my boy problem too. I had to giggle as I imagined my father’s face if I ever told him about Charlie and Gavin. He was used to me confiding in him about boys, but he always had this exasperated look on his face whenever I began that conversation. I wondered who he would like better between Charlie and Gavin.
I had passed out in front of Charlie. Groaning out loud, I covered my face with my hands, trying to shut out the image of it from my head. What would he think of me now? Would he want to date a girl who couldn’t understand the creatures he loved most? And would I even have a chance with him if I broke Gavin’s heart? It seemed that whatever I choose to do, I would end up hurting someone, be it Gavin, Lisa, or myself.
I just have to take it one at the time, I concluded. My date with Gavin would be this weekend, so that could wait. Freckle’s situation, however, had to be dealt with today. So, summoning all the courage I had, I pushed myself up and out of bed, recalling Dad’s parting words when I left for Romania.
“I know you have it in you to be a great Dragon Keeper. You just need to push yourself a bit more and try harder. Dragons are just like any other animals, and you, my dear, can work wonders with animals. You’re my daughter, after all.”
I just wished I had as much faith in myself as he did.
A.N: So, that was the seventh chapter of Charming Charlie. Hope you enjoy it and let me know what you think of Freckle. =D
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